The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

New York Times: "The veteran television personality Jane Pauley will replace Charles Osgood as the anchor of the highly rated CBS show 'Sunday Morning.' Mr. Osgood, who is retiring, announced the news on his last show on Sunday. Ms. Pauley’s first day in the role will be Oct. 9, and she will become only the third anchor of the show, which started in 1979." -- CW 

New York Times: "Modern humans evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. But how did our species go on to populate the rest of the globe?.... In a series of extraordinary genetic analyses published on Wednesday, researchers believe they have found an answer. In the journal Nature, three separate teams of geneticists survey DNA collected from cultures around the globe, many for the first time, and conclude that all non-Africans today trace their ancestry to a single population emerging from Africa between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.... All non-Africans are closely related to one another, geneticists found, and they all branch from a family tree rooted in Africa.... There are also clues that at least some modern humans may have departed Africa well before 50,000 years ago, perhaps part of an earlier wave of migration." -- CW ...

... CW Note to White Racists: You, too, are black. It's way past time to give up your quest for "racial purity"; it's genetically impossible. This, BTW, is something non-ignoramuses have known for a couple of decades. No wonder you hate science.


The Los Angeles Times has extensive coverage of the Emmy Awards here.

The video below will most likely be taken down for copyright infringement, so watch it while you can. It's pretty funny. Here's a WashPo report on Jeb!'s cameo on the opening bit for the Emmy Awards. Also, ABC may put up a video of it here, but they have nothing at all up on the awards ceremony as of 8:30 am ET, Monday, Sept. 19.

Chris Welch of the Verge: "Twitter is about to make a big change to the way that tweets work.... Beginning September 19th, the company will cut down on exactly which types of content count toward the platform's 140-character limit. Media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, etc.) and quoted tweets will no longer reduce the count. The extra room for text will give users more flexibility in composing their messages."

You'll want to supersize this one:


Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, unsuccessful in his bid to become Donald Trump's running mate, has reimagined himself as a celebrity, instead. He'll appear this season on "Dancing with the 'Stars,'" competing against other fabulous celebrities like Ryan Lochte, unless Lochte is unavoidably detained in a Brazilian jail. (Here's a link to Perry's veepstakes proffer. Of course Trump ultimately rejected Perry, but promised to make him head of some agency or department Perry probably can't remember.) CW: As always, we concentrate on the serious, important news because politics ain't funny.

...Washington Post: Charles Osgood, who is 83 years old, announced Sunday, August 28, that he was retiring as host of the long-running CBS show "Sunday Morning." "He will stay on through Sept. 25. Osgood has been the face of the weekly program since 1994, when he took it over from its first host, Charles Kuralt." -- CW 

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The Commentariat -- May 31, 2014

Greg Jaffe & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Eric K. Shinseki resigned as secretary of veterans affairs Friday, apologizing for a scandal in which employees throughout the VA's massive hospital system conspired to hide months-long wait times that veterans faced when seeking care. The size and scope of the coverups in an agency that he had presided over for more than five years left Shinseki dumbfounded and President Obama searching for a replacement for one of his longest serving and most trusted Cabinet officials." ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Even when President Obama at last decided to fire someone for the scandal at the Veterans Affairs Administration, he made clear it was not his idea. In fact, Obama said, he had to be convinced by the man who was being let go":

... New York Times Editors: "... the department's problem was not Mr. Shinseki. It has been broken for years. No one should expect his removal to be anything but the beginning of a much-needed process of change." ...

... ** Mariah Blake of Mother Jones: "... according to VA inspector general reports and other documents that have gone overlooked in the current firestorm, federal officials knew about the scheme at the heart of the scandal — falsifying VA records to cover up treatment delays -- years before Obama became president. VA officials first learned of the problems in 2005.... White House spokesman Jay Carney says the commander in chief was unaware of these allegations until news of the Phoenix VA scandal hit. But according to a memo obtained by the Washington Times, Obama's transition team briefed him on the issue before he took office." Read the whole article. ...

... Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast: "... at an earlier job, as Army chief of staff, [Shinseki] was awfully prescient about how bad things were going to get in Iraq if the United States followed the advice of Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. After Shinseki testified before that war's start that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops to pacify the country, he was subject to a relentless campaign of vilification led by those three and their associates, carried out by the right-wing media.... He may have messed this assignment up, but he still comes out of the wash way ahead of the people who gave us, by choice, all the damaged veterans he was supposed to care for." ...

... Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: Sloan Gibson, "the man who is temporarily replacing Eric Shinseki as secretary of veterans affairs, is a West Point graduate, a onetime banker and a former chief executive of the United Service Organizations (known to most Americans as the U.S.O.) who joined the Department of Veterans Affairs just three months ago." ...

... ** David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: The VA has been crooked from the git-go. "For decades, the VA was a byword for bureaucracy itself, seen as Washington's ultimate paper-pushing, mind-bending hierarchy. That reputation was rooted in the VA's history: It came about because the agency's first leader was an audacious crook." ...

... Paul Steinhauser of CNN: "Minutes after Obama delivered the news, Republicans made it clear that Shinseki's departure doesn't bring an end to this controversy, and shifted their attention from the outgoing VA secretary to the President." ...

... MEANWHILE, on Fox "News." Steve M. has the answer: "Old Fox Line: Shinseki must go! New Fox Line: Yeah, he resigned -- so what?

David Nakamura: "President Obama announced Friday that Jay Carney will step down as White House press secretary after more than three years and be replaced by his deputy Josh Earnest, who worked on the Obama campaign in 2008":

Matthew McKnight of the New Yorker: "On this week's Political Scene podcast, David Remnick and Ryan Lizza join host Amelia Lester to discuss President Obama's speech at West Point and criticisms of his foreign policy":

Would Boehner Drink Drano? Jonathan Chait on the GOP talking point "I am not a scientist": "Very few of us are scientists, which is exactly why we tend to defer to scientific judgment. It might make sense to question expert consensus in a field where you are an expert, but if you know very little about it, you probably want to just go along with what the experts think. Scientists do, in fact, have a nearly unanimous view of anthropogenic global warming.... 'I'm not a scientist' allows Republicans to avoid conceding the legitimacy of climate science while also avoiding the political downside of openly branding themselves as haters of science. The beauty of the line is that it implicitly concedes that scientists possess real expertise, while simultaneously allowing you to ignore that expertise altogether."

Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has joined Mitch McConnell in suggesting that Kentucky could maintain its Obamacare exchange if health care reform is repealed, saying that he's 'not sure' if the new marketplace (Kynect) should be unraveled. Paul's comments come as a growing number of Republicans aim to repackage the key tenets of President Obama's health care law as unique state solutions, designed and built by state officials far away from Washington D.C."

New Yorker: "On this week’s Out Loud podcast, [New Yorker staffer Ken] Auletta joins Nicholas Thompson, the editor of, to discuss the strategies he used to report the story" of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson's firing.

2014 Elections

Gail Collins on the Texas & Mississippi GOP primaries.

Quack, Quack. Jim Newell of Salon has a sneaking suspicion of why RNC chair Reince Priebus can't convince Americans that the Republican party is "the party of equality."

Presidential Election

Elias Isquith of Salon: Chris Christie will not be president; he can't even manage New Jersey.

Marie's Sports Report

When $2BB Is Not Enough. Tim Stelloh of NBC Sports: "After being forced to relinquish control of the Los Angeles Clippers, embattled owner Donald Sterling filed a lawsuit Friday seeking $1 billion in damages from the NBA. The complaint, which was filed in federal district court in California, assailed league commissioner Adam Silver." ...

... Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today: "Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling does not have the authority to stop a $2 billion sale of his team because he has been determined to be mentally unfit to make decisions related to the family trust, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports."

Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "As challenges against the name of the Washington Redskins have persisted for more than four decades, the teams ownership and management has held on to a consistent story: that the team changed its original name -- the Boston Braves -- to the Boston Redskins in 1933 to honor its coach, William 'Lone Star' Dietz, who maintained at the time that he was a member of the Sioux tribe. But in a 1933 interview with the Associated Press, George Preston Marshall, the team's owner and original founder, admitted that the story wasn't true." ...

... Travis Waldron: "The Washington Redskins ... started a Twitter campaign to rally support Thursday afternoon" for keeping a racial slur as their name. "No one, other than perhaps the people running the team's communications effort, thought this was going to go well." Waldron reproduces some Twitter responses.

News Ledes

ew York Times: "An American who blew himself up in an attack in Syria on Sunday has been identified by law enforcement officials as Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a man in his early 20s who grew up in [Vero Beach,] Florida and traveled to Syria late last year."

AP: "A friend of the brothers suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon was accused Friday of obstructing the investigation into the deadly attack by deleting information from his computer and lying to investigators. The friend, Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, of Quincy, was arrested at his apartment.... About 40 minutes after the bombs went off, Matanov called Tamerlan Tsarnaev and invited him to dinner, the indictment said, and all three of them dined together at a restaurant that night."

Guardian: "Google has launched a webpage where European citizens can request that links to information about them be taken off search results, the first step to comply with a court ruling affirming the 'right to be forgotten'."


The Commentariat -- May 30, 2014

Michael Shear & David Joachim of the New York Times: "The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, apologized to veterans and lawmakers on Friday for the agency's mismanagement of the nation's veterans hospitals as he prepared to meet with President Obama, his job on he line, over the widening scandal. 'After Wednesday's release of an interim inspector general report, we now know that V.A. has a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity within some of our veterans' health facilities,' Mr. Shinseki told a conference of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans." ...

... Richard Oppel & Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "At the heart of the falsified data in [the] Phoenix [VA hospital], and possibly many other veterans hospitals, is an acute shortage of doctors, particularly primary care ones, to handle a patient population swelled both by aging veterans from the Vietnam War and younger ones who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.... The inspector general's report also pointed to another factor...: pressures to excel in the annual performance reviews...." ...

... Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "President Barack Obama says he will have a 'serious conversation' with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki about his 'capacity' to adequately handle the problems in the department. [The remarks were made during an interview with] Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan that was taped on Thursday and aired on Friday. Shinseki on Friday is expected to deliver to the president an internal audit on the situation at the VA." ...

... Russell Berman of the Hill on why Boehner & Cantor aren't calling for Shinseki's ouster: "It's not that House Republican leaders think Eric Shinseki is doing a good job as secretary of the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs. It's that they think his ouster could give President Obama an easy way out of a widening crisis." ...

... OR, as Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico put it, "John Boehner and Eric Cantor don't want to make the Veterans Affairs scandal about Eric Shinseki. They want to make Barack Obama responsible."

Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed an agriculture budget bill that included nearly $21 billion for child nutrition that would allow schools to opt out of White House nutritional guidelines passed in 2012. The vote was 31 to 18." Because, um, serving nutritious meals is too ha-a-a-rd.

Wowza! Denver Nicks (Not a Pro B-ball Team) of Time: "House lawmakers advanced legislation Thursday that boosts funding for the federal system of background checks for gun purchases, less than a week after a gunman's rampage in a California college town reignited debate over gun control.... The amendment passed 260 to 145." ...

... Mellow! AP: "The GOP-controlled House voted early Friday in favor of blocking the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana. The somewhat surprising 219-189 vote came as the House debated a bill funding the Justice Department's budget. The amendment by conservative GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California -- the first state to legalize medical marijuana -- came as almost half the states have legalized marijuana for medical uses...." CW: This vote is a shocker: it is both intellectually consistent with the GOP's states-rights philosophy AND it's sensible & humane.

Paul Krugman: "Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy.... You might ask why the Chamber of Commerce is so fiercely opposed to action against global warming, if the cost of action is so small. The answer, of course, is that the chamber is serving special interests, notably the coal industry -- what's good for America isn't good for the Koch brothers, and vice versa -- and also catering to the ever more powerful anti-science sentiments of the Republican Party." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that he's 'not qualified to debate the science over climate change' while slamming the Obama Administration proposed plans to deal with rising global temperatures." CW Think about the logic there. ...

... Dumb & Dumber. Darren Goode of Politico: Apparently ignorance is now a GOP talking point. ...

... Ignorance of the Science Is No Excuse. Emily Atkin of Think Progress: "Donald. J Wuebbles, a distinguished professor of atmospheric sciences and coordinating lead author ... on the recently released National Climate Assessment, said that report was written by scientists and other experts specifically so that members of Congress could understand climate change and how it affects the country. With that report available, he said, climate change should be 'readily understood by any policymaker.'" ...

... Jonathan Chait: "When the history of this presidency is written, it will record that bold, progressive reforms dramatically reshaped the face of government, thanks to the vision, creativity, and political will of one man. And that man is Mitt Romney. President Obama already has Gina McCarthy, who designed Romney's cap-and-trade program in Massachusetts, running the Environmental Protection Agency for him.... The [Obama] administration's new regulations of power plants, due for release Monday, will be designed to expand the structure Romney built." Read the whole post. It's funny. And a reminder that President Obama is just as liberal as Mitt Romney.

Jamelle Bouie in Slate: President "Obama is a talented politician, but in his five years as president, he's made major political mistakes. The 2011 debt ceiling crisis was a huge debacle that threatened the global economy, and it owes itself -- in part -- to Obama's decision to negotiate the debt limit, bucking precedent and sparking a spiral of Republican intransigence.... If there's another failure in the cards for Obama, it's immigration. Since 2009 the president has pressed for comprehensive immigration reform at the same time that he's increased border security.... President Obama still thinks he can get immigration reform from a recalcitrant GOP.... Like the push to negotiate the debt ceiling, this is an insane calculation.... It's hard to overstate the human cost of Obama's deportation policies."

Dan Roberts of the Guardian: "America must change its 'suck-it-up culture' when it comes to responding to head injuries, President Barack Obama said at a White House event on Thursday, during which he revealed his suspicion that he himself sustained concussions as a young athlete." CW: Great. Now Karl Rove can claim Obama is brain-damaged, just like Hillary:

Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: National spelling bee brings out the racists. Turns out only very, very white kids are entitled to spel rite. Also, only very, very white children are American children.

More on reparations by Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker. CW: Yo, Jelani. Shouldn't those Indian-Americans receive reparations, too?

Neil Irwin of the New York Times: "Six days after The Financial Times launched an attack on the data behind Thomas Piketty's much-debated tome on inequality, 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century,' Mr. Piketty has offered his first detailed response to the newspaper's criticism. The short version: He doesn't give an inch." ...

     ... Update: Here's Picketty's full response.

Ellen Nakashima & Barton Gellman of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration and former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden offered divergent accounts Thursday of his efforts to raise concerns about National Security Agency activity more than a year ago, as each side tried to shape the debate over whether the massive leak of classified information was avoidable." The Guardian story, by Dan Roberts, is here. Snowden's e-mail & the response are here. ...

... CW: This is weird. Charles Pierce doesn't seem to understand the difference between reporters & sources. If you bring me evidence that your boss is doing something "irregular" & I publish your stuff, you can get fired or maybe even successfully sued; I suffer no adverse consequences. If Ed Snowden reveals NSA secrets, & the WashPo publishes them, Snowden can be prosecuted; WashPo reporters & editors suffer no adverse consequences. Somebody buy Pierce a copy of the First Amendment. There's no guarantee of Freedom of the Sources. (And, no, freedom of speech doesn't cover Snowden, et al., either.)

Guns are mostly for hunting down politicians who would actively seek to take your freedoms and liberty away from you. Google 'Hitler, Mao, Kim Jung Il, Castro, Stalin' just for starters. -- Samuel Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher, who clearly needs psychiatric supervision & probably a visit from the Secret Service

Kate Tummarello of the Hill: "The broadcast industry plans to sue the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its decision to crack down on resource-sharing deals between broadcasters. On Friday, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will ask the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a March FCC vote that requires broadcasters to unwind many of their advertising sales resource sharing arrangements, according to a source familiar with the matter."

Racism Pays! James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times: "Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer appears to have won a frenetic bidding war for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, with a $2-billion offer that would set a record price for an NBA team.... The sale price would be almost four times the previous NBA franchise high: the $550 million paid earlier this month for the Milwaukee Bucks.... The tentative deal still must receive the blessing of Donald Sterling, who has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades."

Ballmer already has the moves for a sports team owner. Here's how he behaved at a Microsoft meeting:

A Singular Reality Chek. Politico Gets It. This article by Ken Vogel in Politico Magazine is interesting mostly for the first few grafs about President Obama & for its final paragraph. It seems to me that when even a top Politico reporter acknowledges -- even highlights -- the oligarchic takeover of U.S. politics, we're on the verge of a journalistic realignment.

Retreat of the Troglodytes. Juliet Eilperin & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Republican candidates have begun to retreat in recent weeks from their all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act in favor of a more piecemeal approach, suggesting they would preserve some aspects of the law while jettisoning others.... The moves also come as senior House Republicans have decided to postpone a floor vote on their own health-reform proposal -- making it less likely that a GOP alternative will be on offer before the November elections...."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "Hillary Clinton offers a detailed account of the deadly attack on the American embassy in Benghazi -- and a pointed rebuttal to Republican critics who've laced into her over the incident -- in a much-anticipated chapter of her forthcoming book, 'Hard Choices,' obtained by Politico. 'Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,' Clinton writes in the gripping chapter, 'Benghazi: Under Attack.'"

A Land Where Nobody Knows Your Name

     ... I know that fellow is a jerk; I just don't know which jerk.

     ... Caroline Bankoff of New York: "Weiner, for his part, told Business Insider that learning that someone had confused him with the free-school-lunch-hating Ryan is 'the final insult.'"

Congressional Race

Aviva Shen of Think Progress: "An Arizona Republican running for Congress argued that Democrats commit nearly all the mass shootings in the country. Gary Kiehne, a rancher looking to unseat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), made the claim when asked about gun rights at a Republican primary debate on Saturday. 'If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people,' Kiehne said. 'So I don't think you have a problem with the Republicans.' Kiehne also boasted that he had 'more guns and ammo than any one of my competitors.' Kiehne's claim that 99 percent of shootings were committed by Democrats is completely false, yet continues to be a persistent myth on the radical right.

... AND/OR ... Right Wing World

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch: "Family Research Council senior fellow Ken Blackwell yesterday linked the Isla Vista mass killings to marriage equality laws, which he claimed are destroying the culture."

... SO -- Married Gay Democrats???


The Commentariat -- May 29, 2014

CW: Reality Chex got "disappeared" last night, & it appears I lost some content. Sorry for the inconvenience. Looks as if I'm back up & running. 'Til I'm not.

U.S. military action cannot be the only—or even primary—component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. -- President Obama, in his West Point commencement address

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama on Wednesday tried to regain his statesman’s mantle, telling graduating cadets [at West Point] that the nation they were being commissioned to serve would still lead the world and would not stumble into military misadventures overseas. Speaking under leaden, chilly skies, Mr. Obama delivered the commencement address at the United States Military Academy":

... E. J. Dionne locates the "Obama Doctrine." ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate explains President Obama's policy to dummies pundits.

Wesley Lowery & Josh Hicks of the Washington Post: "An independent review of Veterans Administration health centers has determined that government officials falsified records to hide the amount of time former service members have had to wait for medical appointments, calling a crisis that arose in one hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., a 'systemic problem nationwide.' The Inspector General’s report, a 35-page interim document, prompted new calls for VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, a former general and Vietnam veteran, to resign a post he has held since the beginning of the Obama administration. Those calls from Capitol Hill included several members of Obama’s own party, complicating what is already a political challenge for a president who has made veterans issues a legacy-defining priority after a decade of war." ...

... Mark Thompson of Time goes over some of the numbers. CW: Most damning, in my mind, is that Shinseki, his predecessor & other top VA officials received plenty of reports about these practices. Why Shinseki claims to have been unaware of the widespread & (internally) well-reported problem is a head-scratcher. ...

... Edward-Issac Dovere & Carrie Brown of Politico: "More and more Democrats — including Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John Walsh (D-Mont.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), all of whom are up for re-election — have joined Republicans in saying that the IG report is all the proof that they need that Shinseki should be fired." ...

... Jacob Siegel of the Daily Beast: "New whistleblower testimony and internal documents implicate an award-winning VA hospital in Texas in widespread wrongdoing — and what appears to be systemic fraud.... High-level VA hospital employees conspired to ... manipulate hospital wait lists.... If those lag times had been revealed, it would have threatened the executives’ bonus pay.Documents show the wrongdoing going unpunished for years, even after it was repeatedly reported to local and national VA authorities. That indicates a new troubling angle to the VA scandal: that the much touted investigations may be incapable of finding violations that are hiding in plain sight." ...

... Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Sen. Richard Burr [R-N.C.] said on Wednesday that he isn’t backing down from his recent attack on veterans’ groups and even stepped up his assault, charging the organizations are more upset by his comments than they are by the scandal at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs."

New York Times Editors on President Obama's decision to delay a report on immigration enforcement policies: "There is something ridiculous about the president’s fear of halting a legislative process that has been motionless for nearly a year. And it’s infuriating for him to insist that doing more through executive action to protect families and reset the system’s warped priorities — as he did in halting the deportations of thousands of young people brought to the country as children — is impossible or too politically dangerous." CW: Exactly right.

** Linda Greenhouse: "... the [Supreme C]ourt’s majority is driving it into dangerous territory. The problem is not only that the court is too often divided but that it’s too often simply wrong: wrong in the battles it picks, wrong in setting an agenda that mimics a Republican Party platform, wrong in refusing to give the political system breathing room to make fundamental choices of self-governance.... The Republican-appointed majority is committed to harnessing the Supreme Court to an ideological agenda.... Instead of blaming our politics for giving us the court we have, we should place on the court at least some of the blame for our politics." Read the whole post.

Michelle Obama, in a New York Times op-ed, whacks "some in Congress" for their attempts to undermine federal nutrition programs: "... unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children."

Nate Cohn of the New York Times: Most political polls are junk polls. "Many of the surveys to date have been conducted by firms that use automated phone surveys and combine deficient sampling with baffling weighting practices."

What It Takes to Be a Tea Party Star. Dana Milbank reviews Ben Carson's divisive remarks.

Steve M. on the problem of positive thinking: "... it's about conquering rather than coexisting in a society, and it's not healthy." ...

... Jesse Singal argues in New York that Elliot Rodgers' crimes were the result of mental illness, not of misogyny.

Michael Waldman of NYU's Brennan Center, in Politico Magazine: "How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment."

Claire Miller of the New York Times: "Google on Wednesday released statistics on the make-up of its workforce, providing numbers that offer a stark glance at how Silicon Valley remains a white man’s world."

CW: Looks as if all or much of the Brian Williams interview of Edward Snowden is here, though it's divided into six short segments. Happily for me, I won't be able to listen. ...

... Erin McClam of NBC News: "A key claim by Edward Snowden — that his unmasking of government spying programs has not hurt anyone — was immediately called into question Wednesday by a former ambassador to Russia and a former top counterterrorism official." ...

... Michael Kinsley responds to New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan's criticism of his Glenn Greenwald book review. CW: When it comes to writers, including academic writers, the recriminations never end.

Jessica Taylor of the Hill: Tuesday's primary results make it appear Texas is now Ted Cruz's Texas.

Read more here:

Presidential Election 2016

Rick Perry, Blue-State Poacher. Caleb Hannan in a Politico Magazine piece on Perry's attempts to bolster his presidential creds by luring jobs away from states with Democratic governors. CW: What I don't get is this: how, exactly, does this make him more presidential? Are we supposed to infer that President Perry (perish the thought) would poach jobs from Mexico & Canada?

Bush's Brain v. Hillary's Brain. Peyton Craighill & Scott Clement of the Washington Post: "Two-thirds of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll disapprove of the Republican strategist raising questions about Clinton's age and health in advance of her potential presidential run."

Senate Races

Lexington Herald-Examiner Editors mock Mitch McConnell for his pretense that Kynect is "unconnected" to ObamaCare: "... it's no wonder that polls show many Kentuckians don't know that Kynect is a direct product of President Barack Obama's landmark law. How can average people be expected to understand if the Senate's Republican leader still hasn't figured it out, or at least is pretending there's no connection?" ...

... Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "The real political bombshell here is that the senator feels compelled to dodge accountability for his position at all." ...

     ... Update. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post exchanges e-mails with Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager (on loan from Li'l Randy): "McConnell appears to have accepted the Medicaid expansion that has been so embraced by his state’s residents, while drawing a distinction with the Obamacare health plans sold on the statewide exchange. Given that three out of four of the newly insured in Kentucky ended up on Medicaid, that probably makes political sense — and also is newsworthy." CW: How does opposition to ObamaCare end? Not with a bang but a whimper. ...

     ... Greg Sargent: McConnell's "position is still gibberish: He still hasn’t taken a position on whether he would actually support doing that, but barring further clarification, let’s just say he wants Kentucky residents to think he would, or that he might. This provides an opening for Alison Lundergan Grimes to continue putting McConnell on the spot, should she choose to. Either way, for all practical purposes, this is a significant political concession."

Henry Decker of the National Memo: "Mississippi’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate is heating up in its final week, with incumbent Thad Cochran and his right-wing challenger Chris McDaniel trading attack ads centered on a nursing home break-in that has roiled the bitterly negative race.... McDaniel is generally considered to represent the Tea Party’s best chance of knocking off a Republican incumbent in the 2014 primaries."

Gubernatorial Race

Scott Bauer of the AP: "A person close to an investigation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and other conservative groups said Wednesday that Walker's attorney is talking with the lead investigator about a possible settlement that would end the probe." ...

... Jason Stein, et al., of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "A legal civil war broke out Wednesday among targets of a John Doe probe, as a conservative group sought Wednesday to block prosecutors from having settlement talks with Gov. Scott Walker's campaign." AND, yes, as Nadd2 points out in today's Comments, even the Wall Street Journal editors have turned on Walker.

Beyond the Beltway

Mary Wisniewski of Reuters: "Declaring gun control 'essential' to public safety, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday proposed a gun shop ordinance that would videotape gun purchases and limit sales to one per month per buyer. The ordinance comes in response to a January court order invalidating a longtime ban on gun shops within the nation's third-largest city. The proposed law would require a 72-hour waiting period to purchase handguns and a 24-hour waiting period to purchase rifles and shotguns." ...

... The Guardian story, by Lauren Gambino, is here.

Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel: "The coalition of groups trying to prove Florida's congressional map was intentionally gerrymandered to help Republicans turned to experts Tuesday who testified it was 'virtually impossible' to have drawn the maps without political bias.... 'In this case they did a really good job of following the recipe about how to do a partisan gerrymander,' [Jonathan] Katz[, a social scientist,] testified."

Lindsey Layton of the Washington Post: "The creation of the country’s first all-charter school system has improved education for many children in New Orleans, but it also has severed ties to a community institution, the neighborhood school, and amplified concerns about racial equality and loss of parental control." CW: Just another part of the plan to increase inequality, IMHO.

Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post: "Republican governors in seven states -- Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas and Utah -- are either ignoring or refusing to comply with national standards meant to prevent sexual assault in prisons, according to new information from the Justice Department."


The Commentariat -- May 28, 2014

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Obama plans to use a speech at the West Point military academy on Wednesday to lay out a foreign policy vision for his final two-and-a-half years in office, defending his approach against a wave of criticism that he has been too passive on the world stage."

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Obama said on Tuesday that he planned to withdraw the last combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, declaring that 'it’s time to turn the page on a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.' Under the plan, outlined by Mr. Obama in the Rose Garden, the United States would leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, but cut that number by half in 2015. By the end of 2016, it would keep only a vestigial force to protect the embassy in Kabul and help the Afghans with military purchases and other security matters":

Unwarranted Optimism Trumps Reality -- Again. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Obama has directed the secretary of Homeland Security to delay until after the summer a deportation enforcement review that officials feared would anger House Republicans and doom any lingering hopes for an immigration overhaul in Congress this year, officials said Tuesday night. Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, has spent the last two months searching for ways that the president could legally shield some of the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally from deportation."

Robert Barnes & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court gave greater protection Tuesday to death row inmates seeking to prove they should not be executed because they are intellectually disabled, and it ruled that laws such as those in Florida and Virginia are too rigid. The court ruled 5 to 4 that state laws that draw a bright line on IQ-test results are unconstitutional. Under those laws, an inmate who scores above 70 on the test does not meet the first step of proving that he or she is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty." ...

... Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog: "The main opinion relied heavily upon medical learning about the nature of intellectual disability -- the phrase the Court adopted from that community, replacing the traditional phrase it had previously used, 'mental retardation.' The ruling ... stressed that any use of [IQ] scores must always take into account the 'inherent' imprecision of such scores, and commended those states that go beyond test scores to use more standards of clinical measure to determine such incapacity." ...

... The decision by Justice Kennedy, & Justice Alito's dissent are here. Alito is appalled that "elites" now have the power to make life-&-death decisions when these should be left up to the bloodthirsty "American people" & their vengeful/afraid-to-lose-the-next-election representatives. ...

... Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View: "The trouble is, each time the Supreme Court limits the death penalty, it offers an implicit justification for preserving it in most cases. The decision in this case accepts the argument that it's inhumane to execute people who don't fully comprehend what they've done or why they're being punished. In so doing, it implies that a murderer who does comprehend his crimes deserves to die."

Lyle Denniston: "In an opinion filled with chilling, repeated references to being within shooting or grenade-throwing distance of the president, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday that the Secret Service did not engage in unconstitutional censorship when its agents moved protesters out of range of a president [Bush II] as he dined on an outdoor restaurant patio."

Eric Cline in a New York Times op-ed: "... climate change has been leading to global conflict — and even the collapse of civilizations -- for more than 3,000 years. Drought and famine led to internal rebellions in some societies and the sacking of others, as people fleeing hardship at home became conquerors abroad. One of the most vivid examples comes from around 1200 B.C. A centuries-long drought in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions, contributed to -- if not caused -- widespread famine, unrest and ultimately the destruction of many once prosperous cities, according to four recent studies.... But there is one important difference. The Late Bronze Age civilizations collapsed at the hands of Mother Nature. It remains to be seen if we will cause the collapse of our own." Also, Jim Inhofe is an idiot.

** Ezra Klein: "As appalling as the wait times are for VA care, the people living in states that refused the Medicaid expansion aren't just waiting too long for care. They're not getting it at all. They're going completely uninsured when federal law grants them comprehensive coverage. Many of these people will get sick and find they can't afford treatment and some of them will die. Many of the victims here, by the way, are also veterans." Klein lists the states that are denying healthcare coverage to poor citizens & estimates how many are eligible for coverage they are not receiving; e.g.,Florida: "Obamacare's Medicaid expansion would provide 1,212,000 poor Floridians with comprehensive health insurance, including 41,200 veterans. But the state has refused to let the expansion go forward."

Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post: Richard Martinez, the father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, one of the victims in the Isla Vista/Santa Barbara rampage, is "asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child.... 'I don't care about your sympathy. I don't give a s--- that you feel sorry for me,' Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down his face. 'Get to work and do something. I'll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn't impress me.'" Here are excerpts from the interview.

Cliff Schecter of the Daily Beast: "The firearms fanboys have been more creative than usual, scrambling to defend their precious weapons in the wake of the massacre in Santa Barbara. It's only made their excuses lamer." CW: an excellent piece that destroys the usual gun-nut arguments. Of course facts & reason won't shut 'em up ...

Your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights.... Any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those. -- Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher in an open "letter of condolence" to the parents whose children died in the Santa Barbara killings ...

... AND, thanks to a comment by Akhilleus, I guess we should hear from Todd Kincannon, South Carolina mole person.

** Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: An FTC report, issued Tuesday, "provided an unusually detailed account of the system of commercial surveillance that draws on government records, shopping habits and social-media postings to help marketers hone their advertising pitches. Officials said the intimacy of these profiles would unnerve some consumers who have little ability to track what's being collected or how it's used — or even to correct false information. The FTC called for legislation to bring transparency to the multibillion-dollar industry and give consumers some control over how their data is used." ...

... CW: While governmental domestically spying is potentially more dangerous to individuals than is commercial spying, the current level of legal "commercial surveillance" certainly has a more direct impact on people's lives.

Annals of Journalism, Ctd.

Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday responds to criticisms of her column:

Ken Auletta of the New Yorker is not giving up. He does a forensic analysis of the he-said/she-said re: the New York Times' firing of executive editor Jill Abramson. Auletta doesn't buy the claim that publisher Arthur Sulzberger fired Abramson because she lied about telling another top editor about a hiring decision.

Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times' public editor, & Pamela Paul, the Times Book Review editor, kind of get into it over Michael Kinsley's negative review of Glenn Greenwald's book.

As long as I'm attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail. As long as I'm attorney general, someone who is doing their job is not going to get prosecuted. -- Eric Holder, in a meeting with reporters yesterday ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. hinted Tuesday that the Justice Department might choose not to jail a New York Times reporter [James Risen] for defying a subpoena forcing him to discuss his confidential sources -- even as the Obama administration continues to pursue the right to do so before the Supreme Court."

... Tracy Connor of NBC News: "Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with 'Nightly News' anchor Brian Williams, blamed the State Department for stranding him in Russia, saying he 'never intended' to wind up there....Secretary of State John Kerry hit back in a live interview on 'Today.' 'For a supposedly smart guy, that's a pretty dumb answer, frankly," Kerry said. "If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we'll have him on a flight today.'" ...

... Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said in his first U.S. network television interview that he was 'trained as a spy' and rejected the notion that he was a low-level operative."

Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "Hector Xavier Monsegur, who by the US government's calculations participated in computer hacker attacks on more than 250 public and private entities at a cost of up to $50m in damages, was released from a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday after the judge saluted his 'extraordinary cooperation' with the FBI. Monsegur, or 'Sabu' as the celebrated hacker was known, was sentenced to time served -- equivalent to the seven months he spent in prison last year -- plus a year's supervised release, in reward for having spent much of the past three years working as a federal informant. He had been facing a maximum sentence according to official guidelines of more than 26 years."

Jay Newton-Small of Time: "In one of the most overtly political speeches during her tenure as First Lady, [Michelle] Obama slammed Republicans on Tuesday for trying to weaken school nutritional standards, one of her key policy achievements." ...

... CW: I can't listen to it, but I think this video includes Obama's remarks.

The State of Republican "Leadership." Sean Sullivan: "Phil Robertson, the controversial star of the hit TV show 'Duck Dynasty' will address the upcoming Republican Leadership Conference on Thursday."

Randall Balmer in Politico: The real origins of today's religious right was not Roe v. Wade, as fundamentalists now claim; the movement began for the purpose of protecting the private, white segregated schools that were the response to Brown v. Board of Education. ...

... Remembering Reagan. When the [segregated Bob Jones University's] appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court's decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court. -- Randall Balmer

Reagan's fallback position is a perfect example of employing the "states' rights" or "Tenthers" argument to provide cover for all manner of bigotry, cruelty & anti-social policy. Just as Southerners claim states' rights were the "real reason" for the Civil War, Justice Alito -- in his dissent in Hall v. Florida published yesterday -- argued that "laws enacted by state legislatures" should determine who gets the death penalty, while Chief Justice Roberts decided a few years ago that individual states should decide who gets life-saving health insurance & who doesn't. (See Ezra Klein's column, linked above.) -- Constant Weader

Senate Races

Say Anything, Do Anything. Joe Sonka of LEO Weekly: Mitch McConnell doubles down on his outlandish, fact-averse claim that Kentucky's health exchange is "unconnected" to ObamaCare & could survive if the GOP is successful in repealing the Affordable Care Act. "... this might also be a good opportunity for Alison Lundergan Grimes to get off of the sidelines and actually talk about health care with the media and voters so they know exactly what McConnell is trying to do, and have an honest conversation about what she would do. Or, she can continue staying out of this fight, and just hope for the best. Your call, Alison.

Tom Kludt of TPM: Long-shot South Dakoka GOP Senate candidate Annette Bosworth covered the room where she held a press conference with sexist epithets critics had used against her. Bosworth said, in a statement, "The Democrats talk about a war on women, but much of what you see is written by the supposedly tolerant liberals. Their message is clear: conservative women are fair game. If you are a female and a Republican, anything goes." ...

... Erin Ryan of Jezebel comments.

Congressional Race

Nolan Feeney of Time: "The oldest elected politician in Washington lost a runoff election in a Republican primary Tuesday night. Texas Rep. Ralph Hall, 91, was ousted by 48-year-old John Ratcliffe, who emphasized the importance of new leadership after Hall's 34 years in office...."

Gubernatorial Race

Payback. Brendan Fischer of PR Watch: "The federal judge who ordered a halt to Wisconsin's 'John Doe' criminal investigation into [Scott Walker's] spending during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections has regularly attended all-expenses paid 'judicial junkets' funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and other ideological and corporate interests.... Judge [Rudolph] Randa ... ordered prosecutors to destroy all evidence gathered in the investigation, an extraordinary edict in a criminal case made even more astounding by the fact that it came in the context of a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit has blocked this part of his ruling; an appeal of the remainder of his decision is pending.... The Bradley Foundation's President and CEO, Michael Grebe, chaired Scott Walker's 2010 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns. Walker's 2012 campaign is under investigation in the John Doe for allegedly illegal coordination." CW: Randa is a Bush I appointee.

Texas Primary Elections

Brandi Grissom of the Texas Tribune: "Tea Party-backed candidate state Sen. Dan Patrick became the Republican candidate for Texas lieutenant governor on Tuesday, soundly defeating three-time incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a bitterly fought runoff election." Grissom also reports the results of other Texas elections.

Beyond the Beltway

Monica Davey of the New York Times: "A task force convened by the Obama administration issued the most detailed study yet of blight in Detroit on Tuesday and recommended that the city spend at least $850 million to quickly tear down about 40,000 dilapidated buildings, demolish or restore tens of thousands more, and clear thousands of trash-packed lots. It also said that the hulking remains of factories that dot Detroit, crumbling reminders of the city's manufacturing prowess, must be salvaged or demolished, which could cost as much as $1 billion more."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' -- which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South -- was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C."

New York Times: "The Army ousted the commander of one of its busiest hospitals and suspended three top deputies on Tuesday after two patients in their 20s unexpectedly died in the past 10 days, shortly after they sought treatment at the hospital's emergency room."